Diversity of experience is about the breadth and depth of experience across industries, roles, functions, geographies and different types of organizations.
Diversity in the workplace has many meanings. It can refer to gender, education, age and other characteristics, but what does diversity of experience mean? Why does it matter to organizations, their talent and what professionals do outside their jobs? This article explains how diversity of experience can help future leaders grow and the organizations they lead or engage with become successful with their network as the enabler.
Why Leaders and Organizations Search for Diversity of Experience
Professionals seeking to advance their careers or looking for their next step can benefit from expanding their experiences to outside their current organization. They can do this by becoming involved in organizations that champion causes they feel passionately about and give back to society. Organizations searching for executive talent as part of their succession planning strategies value leaders who engage in external activities as well as being able to lead through change and disruption. Retiring executives are often keen to continue their professional interests or pursue personal interests by taking on advisory roles at other companies, in charities or other organizations.
What connects leaders described in each of these cases? It is their participation in strategic external engagements to seek learning opportunities, support missions that resonate with them and contribute to an environment wider than their workplace. By investing time in their interests, activities, and associations beyond working hours, they not only expand their knowledge and develop themselves but also offer skills and experience to groups who will benefit. This creates an ecosystem where reciprocal relationships and partnerships thrive, learning from each other and creating new products and services together based on a shared purpose.
The Value of Diversifying Your Experience
Frances Cook, Managing Director at ICEO London (formerly the Senior Directors Unit at LHHPenna) which uses relationship data and intelligence to advise senior leaders tells us ‘ICEO London is part of the LHH Global business serving the most senior level executives as they work on career strategy, development and “retirement.” We have long believed diversity of experience is key to building successful executive teams and boards. It is only through insight and wisdom acquired in the broader context that an individual can truly contribute to moving a business, enterprise or other venture forward.’
1. Career Advancement
Current executives and future leaders are increasingly seeking opportunities to widen their knowledge, skills and experience to apply different perspectives to solve business problems.
2. Succession Planning
Corporates value leaders who have a blend of experiences that demonstrate their interests, passions and focus for success in the workplace and beyond. Their requirement will include leaders who have successfully led organizations through change and pivoted business models in response to market complexities and megatrends.
Cook says that, ‘Whatever the nature of an executive or non-executive role, experience in different functional, international, sector, and cultural environments serves to maximize success in steering and guiding the organization in the right direction.’
Leaders preparing for retirement can use the networks they have built up with influencers, clients, and partners over the years to identify companies for NED or advisory roles. This of course needs to meet the requirements for transparency on the NED appointments process within that country, where relevant. For example, the UK Corporate Governance code recommends that for listed companies the NED appointment process needs to be transparent and use either a search firm or advertise the position openly.
Simon Perry, a former Partner at EY, was close to retirement when he approached BoardEx for help with researching types of advisory appointments by reviewing NED and Advisor profiles. He explains, ‘BoardEx helped me understand the wider connectivity of my existing network, both when looking for roles as well as preparing for interview, which was invaluable in my transition to a portfolio NED and Advisor. I was also able to edit and update BoardEx’s record of my career appointments to date which recruiters use as a point of reference.’
How BoardEx Helps
At BoardEx, we assist a range of clients with relationship data and intelligence on individuals and within their networks to advise their end customers on their next career move and succession planning strategies. This includes accessing data on current NED members and advisors at organizations of interest or in the market in general. We help them to tap into their network and map relationships from their contacts to alumni to connect to potential strategic partners. Our data on interests and activities can help organizations including public, private and Not-for-Profits (NFPs) source talent for succession planning or identify the next CEO, COO or board member with the right mix of skills and experience. NFPs can also discover how their network connects them to potential advocates and ambassadors who can champion their organization’s mission, represent their target group or cause. This creates a mutual benefit for NFPs and other strategic partners. Senior executives approaching retirement who are seeking advisory or NED roles can contact us to add themselves on BoardEx.
Whether enriching experience from a personal development perspective to bring to an internal role or building a portfolio career to assist external boards and teams, networking and connections will be key. BoardEx helps enormously in this context, identifying individuals with common threads and professional interests. We can keep track of connections and scenarios such as board rotation or retirements. Our team and our clients greatly value this tool and it has been part of our armoury for many years.’